Accessibility resources for game developers

Digital Accessibility Analyst Matthew Putland provides a summary of accessibility guidelines and how they can assist gaming developers in making video games accessible.

With the video game market expected to grow a further 9.4% this year, there's no doubt that gaming will not disappear anytime soon. Accessibility in video games is finally improving, however many developers still do not understand how easy it can be to make their game accessible.

Accessible gaming has taken a stride in recent years and is now often being considered by many developers, those with 'AAA' level budgets and independent developers alike. This is a great improvement for gamers with disabilities, but developers often don't realise the benefits of employing game accessibility techniques. The Game Accessibility Guidelines is a resource maintained by developers, specialists and academics, providing easy to understand information outlining useful design choices for developers to consider when creating their games. Includification, produced by Ablegamers, is another excellent guide for developers to read and understand which also explains why accessible game techniques are important. These techniques not only assist gamers with disabilities, but also outline good game design that all developers will find useful.

The four major focus areas of vision, hearing, motor and cognitive disabilities need to be considered by developers when making their games accessible. Includification and the Game Accessibility Guidelines outline basic, intermediate and advanced techniques that a developer can employ to make their game have an overall better design and assist people with disabilities. In addition to this, the guidelines also explain why it's important to use these techniques, with quotes from gamers with disabilities.

Summary of the Accessibility Guidelines

  Basic Intermediate Advanced
General
  • Easily navigable menus
  • Interactive tutorials
  • Progress text boxes at your own pace
  • Readable font
  • Allow difficulty to be changed during gameplay
  • Auto-aim, assisted steering
  • Include people with disabilities in play-testing
  • Manual and autosave features
  • Option to bypass gameplay elements that are not part of the core mechanic
  • Allow a vast range of demographics and play-testers with disabilities
  • Allow settings to be saved to different profiles
  • Fine-tune gameplay by exposing every variable
Vision
  • Ensure no essential information is conveyed by colour alone
  • High Contrast options
  • Provide field of view options
  • Readable default font size
  • Adjust contrast
  • Clear indication of interactive elements
  • Customizable UI
  • Options to disable walk bobbing or mouth smoothing
  • Easy orientation
  • Font size adjustable
  • Screen reader support
  • Use distinct sounds and audio cues
  • Voiced GPS
  • Voiceover in menus
Hearing
  • Ensure no essential information is conveyed by audio alone
  • Readable captions
  • Separate volume controls (music, effects, voice)
  • Ensure audio cues are also displayed as visual
  • Keep background music minimal during speech
  • Stereo/mono toggle
  • Perfect caption speed for the target age group
  • Sign language
Motor
  • Adjust control sensitivity
  • Ensure that all UI can be accessed using the same input as the gameplay
  • Large, well-spaced interactive elements and controls
  • Rebindable controls
  • Simpler control scheme
  • Allow UI resizing and positioning
  • Avoid repeated inputs
  • Avoid requirements to hold buttons down
  • Easier control schemes
  • Support more input devices
  • Do not make precise timing essential to gameplay
  • Portrait and landscape aspects of play
  • Simple control schemes that are compatible with switch or eye tracking
Cognitive
  • Avoid flickering or repetitive graphics.
  • Interactive tutorials
  • Low menu navigation
  • Simple, clear language
  • Allow control reminders
  • Ensure interactive elements are obvious
  • Avoid sudden movements or events
  • Replayable narrative and instructions

Well-praised developers such as Blizzard Entertainment and Bethesda Softworks employ many of these inclusive techniques in their game design process, shown by the thought and consideration put into their games. These guidelines are a must-read for any game developer, as they can increase a game's rating and sales, and most importantly support gamers with disabilities.